According to the health education authority, 1997, mental health is ‘the emotional and spiritual resilience which allows us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own, and others, dignity and worth. Now doesn’t that sound wonderful? Just that definition alone highlights how important it is that we learn how to look after mental health.
Mental health statistics
- One out of every four people experiences mental health problems every year.
- One adult in six experiences a mental health problem every week.
- One child in ten has a diagnosable mental health condition.
- 50% of all mental illness begins before the age of 15, and 75% before the age of 18.
- Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.
- Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK.
- 23% of NHS activity is taken up by mental illness, but mental health trusts have been receiving only about 12% of all NHS funding.
- Anxiety and depression is the cause of 1 in 5 lost workdays.
How to look after mental health
There are numerous things that one can do help prevent mental illness and manage their mental health. Focusing on your sleep, nutrition and exercise is a great place to start. They will not only look after your mental health but your physical health too.
Sleep is just as important as eating and drinking when it comes to overall health. When it comes to mental health, sleep is perhaps the single most important factor. Sleep is for the brain. It’s during sleep when our brain processes information, consolidates memories and undertakes a number of important maintenance processes to help us function during the day. We can not expect to overcome adversity and have any resilience if we are not sleeping properly.
Eating regularly prevents a drop in blood sugar levels which can lead to tiredness, irritability and low mood. Eating oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, which contain Omega-3 can improve feelings of depression. Protein which contains amino acids is important in regulating levels of brain chemicals and mental health. We should also avoid ‘trans fats’ found in processed foods, as they have been linked to the development of mental illness. High levels of caffeine have been linked with anxiety and depression and difficulties sleeping. Finally, our brains are 75% water, and dehydration affects cognitive function, therefore affecting our ability to problem solve and cope with stressful situations.
The government’s Start Active, Stay Active report states that adults participating in regular daily activity have approximately a 20-30% lower risk of developing depression and dementia. Furthermore, studies have shown that physical activity can also significantly reduce anxiety. Another study found that running for just 15 minutes a day reduces the risk of major depression by 26% and that maintaining an exercise schedule of the longer term has also been shown to prevent relapse. Interestingly, some research comparing physical exercise effectiveness with that of medication or cognitive behavioural therapy, another type of treatment, has found no significant differences between the interventions.
Mental health awareness
If you would like a better understanding and awareness of mental health, common mental health disorders and issues then check out our mental health awareness qualification. The qualification provides you with:
- The ability to recognise and respond to the signs of mental ill-health in yourself and others.
- The ability to offer mental health first aid to people experiencing mental ill-health.